5 Edwards Students Go Homeless (For a Good Cause)
Release Date : March 15, 2011
Related website : http://5days.ca/saskatoon
Written by Hannah Scissons of the Star Phoenix (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Going homeless for a week would be fearful for many young adults - no deodorant, no bedding or fresh clothes, no facebook or twitter.
But Leah Hoffarth isn't really worried about those things. Instead, her biggest concern is that people will walk past her and her donation box and ignore what she's trying to get them to think about.
"The issue isn't even us being outside," said the fourth-year business student. "It's more, not being noticed by people or being ignored. It doesn't personally affect me, but it kind of makes you realize the way you respond and how homelessness can be perceived."
Hoffarth is one of five students from the Edwards School of Business at the University of Saskatchewan participating in 5 Days for the Homeless, an event designed to raise awareness of homelessness in the city. This is the fourth year students in Saskatoon have participated -the event was started five years ago by students in Edmonton and is happening at 23 universities this year.
In Saskatoon, all money raised goes to EGADZ, a downtown outreach centre that operates several homes and programs for youth at risk. The goal is to raise $15,000 locally and $200,000 nationally.
EGADZ executive director Bill Thibodeau said the event is less about the cash raised and more about the ongoing effort to address homelessness in the community.
"The benefit has been not just the financial end. It's been the awareness and the items that come in that help us do what we do," he said, before turning to address the participating students during a news conference at the university on Monday. "I take off my hat, and I take off my coat if you need that too, to you guys for what you're doing, the sacrifice you're making."
Edwards School of Business dean Daphne Taras also praised the students for their participation.
"I'm very proud of the engagement our students have with the community of Saskatoon and the province. . . . They have my support," she paused, then added, "and admiration."
The five students -Hoffarth, Kelsey Heggie, Malcolm Radke, Nathan Thoen and Stephanie Ulm -spent their first night sleeping outside on Sunday. They are required to stay on campus for the full five days, with no access to food or drink other than what people donate to them. They have to go to all their classes and carry out whatever other educational and extracurricular responsibilities they have.
Saskatoon city councillor Mairin Loewen noted the two demographics most at-risk of homelessness in Saskatoon are those between birth and nine years old and those between 17 and 23 years old, so it's very appropriate for students to be raising awareness of the issue in the city.
"While it's exciting to be a growing city, one of our concerns is that our capacity to respond to some of these things isn't keeping pace with our population," said Loewen. "We do have some very real issues of homelessness and people at risk of homelessness in Saskatoon."
The students are blogging about their experience -along with other participants from across Canada -at www.5days.ca. On Monday, Radke wrote that the first night outside was more of a "doze" than a sleep.
"It was definitely nicer weather than last week, which really made me stop and think about how hard it truly would be to survive through a Canadian winter without a warm home," he wrote. "I can also already see how important a social circle of support is. Doing this project by myself would make me go crazy."
Temperatures dipped to -9 C overnight, a far cry from the lows of -27 C experienced last week.
Donations can be made to the students on campus, at a number of businesses on Broadway Avenue and online at www.5days.ca.
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